“The Christian of the future will be a mystic or he will not exist at all.”-Karl Rahner
What does it mean to be a Christian? Is it mere agreement with a statement of faith or The Apostle’s Creed? Is it local church membership? Bible reading? Prayer? Baptism? Tithing? Some combination of all of the above?
If we apply some of those standards to the earliest followers of Jesus, they would fall short. While Peter, John, and Mary Magdalene certainly were people of prayer, they never picked up a Bible or held formal membership in a local church. Those things wouldn’t exist for centuries.
More than anything, being a Christian is an awakening of spirit that leads us into a love relationship with the Divine and all of creation. It’s believing that Jesus was different than all of the teachers who came before or after Him and building our lives around the new way that He taught us to be human. It’s a surrendering of fear and a yielding to love.
As we surrender our fear and love begins to do its sacred work within us, we lose our lust for power and control. Our violence fades. We realize that love never forces its way upon another. We stop expecting people to become like us and just want them to be whoever they really are. As Richard Rohr as brilliantly put it, “A mature Christian sees Christ in everything and everyone else.”
Recognizing Christ in everyone, we honor their journey as it is and give them permission to follow wherever it leads without our preconceived notions of what that should look like. We become encouragers and cheerleaders rather than enforcers of morality.
While being a church member is easy, following the Narrow Way of Jesus is not. The starting point that fuels our journey must be more than an awareness of sin. It must be an awakening to the divine spark within. Jesus called this being “born from above” or “born of the spirit”.
The primary reason that Christianity has become so defined by politics and moral outrage is because there are so many Christians who’ve simply never met Jesus and therefore don’t know how incredibly loved they are. Without extravagant love as our starting point, we become mere penitent sinners pointing fingers at our fellow transgressors who we believe to be just as much a disappointment to God as we are.
Eyes to See, Ears to Hear
When Jesus confronts us with our own belovedness, we understand that there is no work required on our part. We are completely known and completely loved and there is nothing that we can ever do to add to God’s love for us or subtract from it. We are loved-not in spite of ourselves-but because God sees and treasures who we really are. As we learn to live loved, fear loses it’s grip on us and we become more transparent which ultimately helps others experience love as well.
As we become agents of extravagant love, walls of division are torn down and bridges of compassion are built. Compassion in action leads to a revival of justice for the poor and oppressed and we get a glimpse of the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven. As Divine transformation takes root, those with eyes to see and ears to hear will embrace a Kingdom that is so much bigger than our previous narrow view of Christianity and following Jesus will take on a whole new meaning.